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Equatorial Guinea is holding presidential elections on Sunday in which a candidate from the decimated opposition and another accused of being a “puppet” of the regime face off against a president who has been in power for 43 years.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 80, in power since 1979, is running for a sixth term in this small hydrocarbon-rich central-west African country, which gained independence from Spain in 1968.

Obiang holds the world record for longevity of heads of state still alive without counting monarchies.

His re-election leaves no room for doubt, in a country where dissonant voices were stifled to their minimum expression for more than four decades.

Obiang’s main rival is Andrés Esono Ondo, secretary general of the Convergence for Social Democracy (CPDS), the only opposition party that is not banned.

Ondo, 61, was detained for 13 days in Chad in 2019 when he was on his way to the congress of an opposition party in that country.

The Guinean government accused him on that occasion of fomenting a “coup d’état in Equatorial Guinea with foreign financing.”

The third candidate is former Prime Minister Buenaventura Monsuy Asumu, from the Social Democratic Coalition Party (PCSD).

Asumu is running for the fourth time, without having managed to stand out in any of the previous three, and is accused by the opposition of being a “puppet” of the regime, one of the most closed in the world.

His movement is in fact one of the traditional allies of the Democratic Party of Equatorial Guinea, the group of the head of state.

– Election “drill” –

In recent weeks, the security forces have arrested numerous opponents, accused by the government of fomenting a “plot” to carry out “attacks”, especially against “Western embassies and ministers’ homes.”

In mid-September, the authorities detained Gabriel Nse Obiang Obono, one of Obiang’s main opponents, at the headquarters of his Citizens for Innovation (CI) party in Malabo. The party was outlawed in 2018.

The operation, in which some 150 militants were also arrested, ended with five people dead, including four militants and a police officer, according to authorities.

The incident “discredited” the electoral process, stressed to AFP Joaquin Elo Ayeto, coordinator of Somos+ Civil Society, an Equatoguinean NGO that defends human rights.

“The party in power needed an ‘opposition’ to organize a mock election,” the NGO explained.

The last presidential elections were marked by accusations of “fraud”. Obiang was re-elected in 2009 with 95.37% of the vote and in 2016 with 93.7%.

“Obiang’s elections were never free or democratic, but marked by massive and systematic voter fraud,” several opposition members, most of them exiled, wrote in a statement.

In the statement, “all citizens of Equatorial Guinea are called not to participate in any phase of the electoral process,” despite the fact that voting is mandatory.

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AFP

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